The 2019 World Cup is expected to be the highest scoring one ever. England are widely tipped to finally win a 50-over major tournament. Batsmen are expected to reduce bowlers to glorified bowling machines and 300-plus totals could well be par scores.
On paper, hosts England, India, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are seen as strong contenders with the rest of the teams not too far behind.
But while the focus is on teams, players and the flatness of wickets in England, one major aspect that is not getting as much attention is the format.
This World Cup, 10 teams play each other and the top four qualify straight to the semi-finals. No groups, no quarter-finals. Just like it was in the 1992 World Cup. And that alters the scenario drastically.
Generally, consistency is important in a World tournament but this edition of the 50-over showpiece event will have more emphasis on peaking at the right time.
Sure, the team that wins six or seven of the nine league matches will be in good shape heading into the knockouts but equally importantly, the format allows at least one team to sneak into the last four and then have two great days to lift the title.
The 1992 World Cup is a perfect example of it. There, Pakistan had just one win from their first five matches. A washout against England after being bowled out for 74 was a massive slice of luck as a result would have affected their net run rate dramatically.
As luck would have it, Imran Khan rallied his troops when all seemed lost and the men in green got their act together during the most important stretch – winning five matches in a row to win the World Cup.
The format allowed Pakistan to have a poor first half and win right at the end to taste glory.
Also, having semi-finals instead of an IPL style knockouts that allow the top two teams two opportunities to make it to the final as a reward for their consistency means in the 2019 World Cup, there is the possibility of a team stitching together wins right towards the end of June, maybe benefiting from some rain-affected games and Duckworth Lewis calculations, and finding itself on the brink of World Cup glory.
What’s more, even if a team wins nine out nine league games, one defeat in the semi-final will mean end of its campaign while another team with, say, five wins from nine matches can have two good days and be crowned ‘world champions’.
It’s not the best format as it does not reward consistency, nor are there enough teams in the fray; there are no Associate teams nor Ireland – a Test nation. But it is what it is and be ready for a surprise winner, as was the case in 1992.
West Indies will hope everything comes together for them as they face South Africa in their final warm-up match ahead of the 2019 Cricket World Cup.
A fairly inconsistent showing in the tri-series with Ireland and Bangladesh has raised several questions about the current contingent.
South Africa on the other hand are coming into the tournament on a high after a great run of results. The Proteas comfortably beat Sri Lanka by 87 runs in their first warm-up game.
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With the Cricket World Cup 2019 about to get underway, we take a trip down memory lane and look at some of the iconic players to have defined their eras and earned the title of legends in their country.
As we build up to the tournament, we celebrate the legends of past and take a look at the current flag-bearers.
Here, we have picked four players from Australia who have left their mark in the history books.
Allan Border [1978-1994]
Allan Border will always be known as the legend who rebuilt Australian cricket from the debris in the aftermath of the 1983 World Cup. Following the horror show in which they were eliminated in the group stages, then captain Kim Hughes stepped down to make way for Border.
Hailing from New South Wales, Border took up the mantle and led Australia to their maiden World Cup win in 1987. Statistically, the all-rounder had an average tournament as a player, but his role as captain and leader of the team proved most crucial in the end.
Rather than his ODI numbers, Border is known for his impeccable Test record and was at one point in the ’80s the best player in the world.
Test Match stats
Iconic World Cup innings: 2/38 v England (Final, 1983)
Border recorded figures of 2-38 against England in the 1983 final to help Australia successfully defend a total of 254. Most importantly, he got the crucial wicket of opposing skipper Mike Gatting, who had at one point looked as if he would go on to win the match for England. The fact that Australia won the game by just seven runs underlies the importance of dismissing Gatting for 41.
Shane Warne [1992-2007]
Australia have always been blessed with legendary bowlers, but Shane Warne is arguably the best of all. His slow walk-up to the crease followed by the sudden contortion of the wrist is truly one of the most iconic bowling actions ever.
The leg-spinner is known for his tremendous accuracy and ability to generate spin under any conditions. He played a major role in Australia’s 1999 World Cup campaign, the foundation for an era of domination that followed.
The best big-game player Australia could ever ask for, Warne also dragged Australia to the 1996 final where they lost to Sri Lanka. But the 1999 tournament – where Warne finished as the leading wicket-taker – was arguably the best phase of his illustrious career, having been forced to miss 2003 because of a drugs ban.
1999 World Cup stats
Iconic World Cup innings: 4-29 v South Africa (Semi-final, 1999)
Warne stole the show in what is still considered the greatest match in World Cup history.
Australia were tasked to defend a total of 213 and the spinner’s four-wicket haul, that included the wickets of Herschelle Gibbs and the in-form Jacques Kallis, helped the eventual champions restrict a gutsy South African team to 213 in a nail-biting semi-final tie. Australia qualified for the finals by virtue of a better record in the Super Six stage.
Ricky Ponting [1995-2012]
Having led them to two World Cup titles, Ricky Ponting can boast about being the most successful captain in the history of Australian cricket.
Controversies, born purely out of his desire – or rather desperation – to win at any cost have followed him throughout his career. But this has never stopped him from being his aggressive, fierce self in times of need.
With the bat, Ponting was formidable, toying with the best bowling attacks and asserting dominance for over a decade, while his nous as a captain was unparalleled.
Making it to the top three leading run scorers in two World Cups is an impressive feat and Ponting comfortably achieved it in the 2003 and 2017 editions.
2003 World Cup stats
Iconic World Cup innings: 140* against India (Final, 2003)
The captain stepped up in the most important game of Australia’s 2003 World Cup campaign to dismantle India’s bowling attack and claim victory for his side.
Ponting scored 140 runs from 121 balls to take Australia’s total to 359, smashing the Indian bowlers all across the park in an innings that saw four fours and eight sixes.
The Aussies retained their crown, with India failing to get anywhere near their gigantic innings. This performance can be considered as one of the best with the bat in a World Cup final.
David Warner (2009-present)
Known for his aggressive style with the bat, David Warner could prove the difference-maker for Australia in this year’s World Cup.
The southpaw is coming into the tournament off the back of yet another orange cap campaign in the Indian Premier League. The one-year ban imposed by Cricket Australia due to the ball tampering controversy last year has seemingly not affected his form in any way.
Warner had an above-average 2015 World Cup campaign but didn’t exactly stand out. Given his form heading into this edition, a lot more will be expected of him.
Keep an eye out for explosive starts when Australia take to the crease, with Warner determined to prove a point upon his return to England.
2015 World Cup stats
Iconic World Cup innings: 178 v Afghanistan (2015)
Warner’s 178 from just 133 balls against Afghanistan in the group stages helped Australia register 417, the highest ever in a World Cup game. The entertaining display featured 19 fours and five sixes. Warner and Steve Smith put 260 runs on the board for the second wicket to help Australia put one into the record books.